Monetary Value Monday: Increase in US Water Rates

Water Rate Increases have been in the news repeatedly over the years but recently much more frequently I have come across constant increases in both water rates and sewer rates to offset utility infrastructure projects, utility debt, to help utilities repay loans and secure new water sources. A few of the water rate increase I have come across in the last month are below: (So you are not the only one)

1%-15% Rate Increase:

16%-40% Rate Increase:

  • Foster City, CA. On July 1, 2012 SFPUC notified EMID that it will increase the wholesale rate for water from $2.63 / ccf to $2.95 / ccf. Representing a 12% increase. EMID must respond to this increase by increasing its base consumption rate to $3.13 / ccf, which represents an 18% increase in consumption charges to its customers effective July 1, 2012. Fixed meter charges, however, will be decreased by 10% from their current rates.
  • Upshur, VA 20% Increase
  • Plymouth, MA. 21% increase
  • San Jose, CA.21% increase within the next year and 44% increase over the next three years (Taking residential bills from $65 to $93)
  • Visalia, CA 25.3% Increase
  • Joplin, Missouri 25.5% Increase
  • Sistersville, VA 27% increase
  • Brandon, MS Increased 27% since 2000
  • Boiling Springs, PA 27% increase
  • Lafayette, CA29% Increase
  • Madison, MS Increased 30% since 2000
  • Oolitic, IN 32% Increase 
  • Jackson, MS 35% increase in first year of use
  • Scituate, MA 10% Increase expected to increase to 35% increase

41%-60% Rate Increase:

61%-80% Rate Increase:
81%-100% Rate Increase:
101%-200% Rate Increase:

Democrat vs Republican Water Views… Whats the better choice for the U.S.?

 

Water is a unique natural resource in that it constantly flows through the hydrologic cycle. Significant amounts of water are diverted and placed to beneficial use, while significant amounts are also left in rivers, lakes and groundwater basins to support future use and other environmental resources, such as wildlife, fisheries, natural landscapes and aesthetics. This is what is thought to be our current water use regime we are far sustainable with our current practice. Both the incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney largely ignored the topic during the presidential campaign, as have the moderators at the three televised debate (everyone is ignoring the huge elephant in the corner). Below are points in which each Presidential Candidate has addressed water.
Democratic: Barak Obama (Lacked a Game Plan)
  • Obama Stated that “We are working to improve water quality, restore rivers, and critical watersheds, and we are making headways in ensuring that our nations water best serve its people.”
    • Democrats will continue to working to ensure the integrity of the waters American’s rely on everyday for drinking, swimming, and fishing by supporting initiative to restore our rivers, oceans, and watershed.
  • Obama’s failed jobs bill proposed to congress included funds for a National Infrastructure Bank. That would provide low interest financing for water, energy, and transportation project. 
  • Increased investments in water conservation and infrastructure 
    • Sustainable infrastructure approach still faces extensive opposition and more often they turn to the traditional grey infrastructure. 
  • Improve access to drinking water for rural areas and poor communities along the U.S.- Mexico border. 
  • International development, Obama hopes to increase the access of clean water (primarily Saharan Africa).
Republican: Mitt Romney (Extensive Action Plan)
  • Wants to improve the out of date water laws so that businesses and communities are shouldering the burden of “excessively costly and inflexible approaches.”
    • Romney views infrastructure networks as a critical for economic growth through international competitiveness and national security
  • Romney’s goal is to modernize federal water law. Through a combination of incentives, market based programs, and cooperative conservation measures will improve the water quality of our lakes, rivers, streams, and coastal environment.
  • Recognized issues with the water- energy-food nexus but did not set out any plans to make a change.
  • The rest of Romney concerns toward water are stated in the Republican Platform
    • Safety and availability of water supply
    • See water as a component of national infrastructure same as roads, bridges, ports, and so on. 
    • Investment areas include: Levees and inland waterways (to renew communities and attract business-> creating jobs.)
    • Commoditizing water rights. However stand with growers and producers in defense of their water rights against attempts by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to expand Jurisdiction over water. 
    • Making all coastal waters off limits to energy exploration.
    • Reduce air and waterways pollution and return them to the healthier state they were in decades previous.
Other Issues on the Ballot: 
  1. San Francisco, Ca. needs to decide whether the city should draw up plans to end a century-old dispute over the environmental cost of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (which supplies 61% (2.6 million people)of San Francisco’s drinking water).Voters will decide if the city should think about drinking the reservoir to restore the valley. 
    • The financial burden of the cost of the O’Shaughnessy Dam and replacing both its storage capacity and the energy it generate would cost between $3 to $10 Billion, according to estimates by the state of California. This is by far the biggest water related item on any U.S. Ballot but its not the only one. 
    • Voting Yes on Proposition F does not mean that the Dam will be removed, but rather it asks San Francisco voters if the city should spend $8 million to develop a plan to shut it down. (some insight into the reasoning behind this prop.) 
  2. Coastal Californian Residents (Santa Cruz) will be deciding on the future of their water supply. To approve or reject any future plans for a desalination plant. 
  3. Wichita, Kansas will decide whether the city should add fluoride to its water supply.
  4. Aspen, Colorado decides whether or not the city should continue to pursue there hydroelectric project. 
  5. Wauconda, Illinois decides if they should extend  $41 million bond measures and improve the pipeline system to bring in water from Lake Michigan.
  6. Mansfield, Ohio is considering blocking the development of wells that store waste water from hydraulic fracturing.
  7. Ashville, North Carolina voted on a referendum asking if the city should sell or lease it water treatment and distribution system. 
  8. Oklahoma voting on the creation of Water Infrastructure Credit Enhancement Reserve Fund. Which would authorize up to $300 million in general obligation bonds for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, expanding a program initiated by the state legislature in the 1980’s.
  9. Maine will be voting on a smaller bond program where the state wants to issue $7.9 million in bonds for drinking water and wastewater, which would make them eligible for nearly $40 million in federal grants. 
  10. Infrastructure investments have turned away from the surge of government spending which it received in 1970 following the Clean Water Act and heavily relied on ratepayer dollars. 
    • 2010 Survey from ITT, a manufacturing company based in White Plains, New York, found 85% of voters agreed that federal, state or local governments should invest in water system improvements and 63% were willing to pay 11% more on their water bills to do so. 
    • However last week General Electric revealed 84% of people surveyed thought water resources should be a national priority. 

 

Can a little water really cripple the Big Apple?

Most of the press has been focused on New York, which by far was hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy, but this article gives you a state by state breakdown of the impact of Hurricane Sandy’s. Having to cancel my trip to New York this past weekend. I wanted to understand if I made the right decision …

New York’s Flooded Subways:
5.3 Million New Yorkers depend on the Subways. It is the fifth largest subway system in the world – by far the largest in the U.S. The system took a $1.1 billion budget cut in 2009 and responded by shutting many stations after hours, slashing the number of staffed dare booths and postponing or canceling planned repairs and maintenance. For all the pumps at the systems disposal, they still can’t handle rainfall of more than 1.75 in per hour without causing disruptions. The entire subway system contains 660 miles and 468 stations- most of which is shut down because of its inundated with corrosive salt water.

  • The age of the subway system is roughly 108 years old.
  • The tunnels and stations are situated adjacent to or underneath rivers and harbors, and water seepage is unavoidable.
  • The street level grates that provide light and air to the tunnels and stations act as natural drains during even an ordinary rain, making a mess of platforms and often halting service.

Even on days when there is no rain we pump 13 million gallons of water. (Using three pump trains, 300 pump rooms and dozens of portable pumps). Hurricane Sandy put a lot more strain on the system with storm surges in lower Manhattan rising to 14 feet, blowing the doors off the previous 10 Feet record set by Hurricane Donna in 1960.

  • Below 40th Street, the subway system has an unknown number of stations that are flooded to the ceiling
  • All seven under river tubes linking the boroughs are inundated.
  • What lines are most affected See here
  • Video of MA Walks through in Flooded NYC Subway.

Preventive investments always seem too expensive at first, but only until you’re suddenly faced with the infinitely higher repair bills New York is dealing with today. And as oceans continue to warm, and sea levels continue to rise as a result of climate change, the problem is only getting worse. In the past 20 years, Hurricanes Andrew, Floyd, Katrina, Rita, Dean, Irene, Isaac and others have tried to remind us of that simple truth. Now Hurricane Sandy is adding her voice. One of these days, we might listen. Seems to be something to take into consideration when these 100 year storms appear to be hitting every two years. Now New York is looking at $10 Billion in damage to the transportation infrastructure and $40 Billion in economic losses related to the storm.


Resolution:
The Army, Air National Guard, Pentagon, Navy and Army Corps of Engineers are all working on power restoration and water clearance. The Army Corps of Engineers is primarily focusing on the subway system with 35 large-scale projects focusing on New York alone. The clean up process is extensive since all the tunnels are filled with salt water. It will be a long, painstaking cleanup. Every single piece of equipment- Signals, contacts, everything- has to be disassembled cleaned and dried. Then it can finally be reinstalled, luckily the subway cars themselves were stored in the high ground. New methods being taken into consideration to assist with clearing the tunnels is the use of a balloon. Which would inflate blocking the tunnel allowing for the pumps to take a manageable load? However, these balloons are a current project of the Department of Homeland Security to protect subways from terrorist gas attacks. New York should take notes from Bangkok which in 2011 faced a monsoon and despite the extensive flooding the subway system remained fully operational.

New Jersey Water Supply:
Governor Christie signed a mandatory statewide water use restrictions declaring a State of Water Emergency for New Jersey. Department of Environmental Protection to implement water usage instructions across the state. To make sure everyone has access to clean water, therefore, everyone must use water within moderation in an attempt to conserve water while we restore power at our supply facilities. Securing availability of clean water for everyone who needs it. The use restrictions including:

  • all indoor water use (showers, baths, domestic cleaning)
  • Nonessential Outdoor watering is prohibited
  • Watering grass, lawns, and landscapes prohibited
  • Washing paved surfaces prohibited
  • Filling: fountains, artificial waterfalls, pools is prohibited
  • Municipal street sweeping heavily restricted
  • Car washing prohibited
  • Serving water in restaurants, clubs or other eating establishments is prohibited unless requested by patrons.

Crazy Random Facts:

  • Hurricane Irene, visited New York last year, cost the city alone $55 million according to the New York Daily News.
  • In 2007, a 3.5 inches of rainfall overwhelmed New York City’s Subways pumps shutting down 19 lines.
  • In 1983, a Hurricane struck New York and washed Hog Island, a geographical feature south of Rockaway Beach, right off the map.
  • The New England Hurricane of 1938 was a last minute Hurricane to directly take a swipe at New York. As a point of reference, a major hurricane hits the Big Apple about every 75 years.

Water and Wine

This weekend, I went to Captain Vineyard to harvest Petite Sirah. Having never harvested wine I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I was amazed to find Captain Vineyard is tucked into a residential hillside in Moraga, California. Captain Vineyard contains 3,500 lines that create the following wines:

  • Pinot Noir (600 vines)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (200 vines)
  • Petite Sirah (1,500 vines)
  • Petite Verdot (650 vines)
  • Cabernet Franc (450 vines)
This boutique winery was like no other winery I have been to, being on a hillside and in Moraga, California numerous questions came to mind:
  1. What exactly is dry farming?
  2. How much water does the winery use?
  3. Where does the water come from?
  4. Did the drought impact a winery?
Captain Vineyard is a family business as well as a  green business,  Susan and Salah pride themselves on their unique approach to dry farming. After converting the steep hillside (backyard) into a terraced five acre vineyard, Susan returned to school at UC Davis to further understand Viticulture. She modeled the vineyard on the European hillside style, affording healthy stress and competition between vines. In 2005, the soil was ready for vines and approximately 3,000 vines were planted. The Moraga microclimate provided the ideal microclimate for grape-growing.  In 2007, 500 vines were added to include Cabernet Sauvignon.
What exactly is dry farming?
 
The vines do not benefit from irrigation. The struggle to survive puts stress on the vines and stress, if you ask some folks equals flavor, complexity and balance in wines. The first thing that happens when you stress a vine is the yield of that vine goes down. Fewer grapes are produced, so energy is concentrated on the remaining grapes.  This was extremely beneficial for Captain Vineyard because dry farming not only allowed them to turn their hillside into a vineyard, but the vines provided support for the entire project. Dry farming forces the vines to search for water, probing deeper and deeper into the soil so that they are prepared for drought.  To create this behavior, you must start by digging a hole next to the base of each vine. Whenever the plant begins to wilt, you dig into the hole next to the base of the plant and water the plant. Each time you water the plant you dig the hole deeper and deeper. This way the plant begins to search for future water deeper in the soil.
How much water does the winery use? 

With the use of Dry farming EBMUD praises Captain Vineyards for their smart water use. Traditional grape growers use as much as 20 gallons to make a single gallon of wine. The Captains implemented a spacing method called “5×3” meaning the vine rows are 5 feet apart, and plants are 3 feet apart minimizing water use. The vineyard also uses the drip irrigation and has trained their vines to use less water. Watering less frequently and for  a longer duration trains the root system to go more deeply into the soil, thus improving the water supply capability of the root system. Captain Vineyards saves up to 16,000 gallons of water per acre annually, using 67% less water compared to another vineyard of equal size. To give you a sense of the quantity of water consumed in 2009 the 2.5 acres of vines and only consumed 253,572 gallons. (the average person consumes 50 gallons a day)


Where does the water come from? 

Captain Vineyard is similar to other homes in their neighborhood and has a well that supplies most of their water. However, dry farming refers to the practice of relying only on natural annual rainfall. Therefore, the vineyard primarily relies on rain with very little irrigation.
Did the drought impact their harvest?

Globally the United States has the largest wine market, and California makes up about 90% of that wine market. In 2011, wine sales hit a new high of $32.5 billion for the United States. The recent drought had a limited impact on the quality of the grapes harvested this year. Drought means two things for a winery, quality of the harvest (higher Degrees Brix) increases but the quantity of harvest decreases. The increase in quality is due to the concentration of flavor and sugars within each grape and a reduction in pest/disease within the crop overall.  The Degrees Brix, is a scale that measures the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of the solution, and it represents the strength of the solution as a percentage by weight (commonly used in wine, sugar, fruit juice, and honey). Typically in drought-stricken years wineries are known to produce less volume but the product has a higher value due to the high level of quality. This year was unique at the Captain Vineyards because the Degrees Brix was higher than last year’s average and the expected yield for this year was two tons larger than last year. Looks like dry farming and the consistent weather is working in their favor.

True cost ounce by ounce of water in 2012 (Bottled vs. Tap)

Ounce for ounce, water costs more than gasoline, even at today’s high gasoline prices; depending on the brand, it cost 250 to 10,000 times more than tap water. Globally the bottled water industry is now worth $46 billion. More than half of all Americans drink bottled water; about a third of the public consumes it regularly. Sales have tripled in the past ten years, to about $4 billion a year. This sales bonanza has been fueled by ubiquitous ads picturing towering mountains, pristine glaciers, and crystal-clear springs nestled in untouched forests yielding pure water. But is the marketing image of total purity accurate? Also, are rules for bottled water stricter than those for tap water?

Is there a health impact?

The bottled water industry promotes an image of purity, but in fact it is exactly the opposite. Bottled water has been seen to contain chemical contaminants (toxic byproducts of chlorination). According to the Earth Policy Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles in the United States end up in landfills, which has a long-term effect that could impact ground water.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study of 10 major bottled water brands. The laboratory test conducted by EWG at one of the countries leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states and the District of Colombia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether. With an average of 8 contaminants in each brand, more than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water. The Achieves of Family Medicine, researchers compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria. The NRDC reports, water stored in plastic bottles for ten weeks showed signs of phthalate-leaching. Phthalates block testosterone and other hormones.  One thing to keep in mind  phthalates in tap water are regulated, no such regulation at all for bottled water.

Where is all the Legislation?

In 2007, the State of California passed a law (SB 220) designed to reverse the dearth of basic public data about the quality of bottled water. The law mandates that water bottled after January 1, 2009 and sold in California must be labeled with both source and two ways for consumers to contract the company for the water quality report.  (96 bottled water companies present in California and only 34% complied with SB 220.

The State of California has legal limits for bottled water contaminants. However, unlike tap water, consumers are provided with test results every year of the source contaminants and purity. Bottled water industry is not required to disclose the results of any contaminant testing. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standard as tap water. But keep in mind both bottled water and tap water suffer from the occasional contamination problem, but tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water. For example New, Your City tap water was tested 430,600 times during 2004 alone.

In 2008, more than 100 bottled water facilities were operating within California. Each of those facilities reports the amount of water extracted from groundwater sources to the state Department of Public Health.The Department of Public Health then relays the information to the State Water Board, who tabulates all water inventory of water rights for the state of California.  AB2275 was put in place in California to ensure that the state’s water is responsible allocated in ways that protect our environment, economy and quality of life.

The Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water, and the U.S. EPA is in charge of tap water. The Safe Drinking Water Act empowers EPA to require water testing by certified laboratories and that violations be reported within a specific time frame. (Public water systems must also provide reports to customers about their water.) The FDA, on the other hand, regulates bottled water as food and cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting. As a result, the FDA does not require bottled water companies to disclose to consumers where the water came from, how it has been treated or what contaminates it contents.

Economic Perspective:

The water bottle industry has grown to become a $10 billion (2010), doubling in growth over recent years. In 2004, Americans, on average, drank 24 gallons of bottled water, making it second only to carbonated soft drinks in popularity. Bottled water costs 10,000 times more than tap water, and 40% of bottled water comes straight from the tap. Some may say the appearance, odor, flavor, mouth, feel, and aftertaste impact their choice in which type of water they prefer to drink but what cost are they will pay. If you drank the 99-cent bottle today, then took the bottle home and continued to use it, you could refill it every day with tap water until July 3, 2017, before you’d spent 99 cents on the tap water.The NYT article “Bad to the Last Drop” provides a great perspective on the comparison of bottled and tap water.

However, bottled water is undeniably more fashionable and convenient than tap water. The practice of carrying a small bottle, pioneered by supermodels, has become a commonplace.

The ultimate price for water!

An interesting article was published in Cleveland Plain Dealer that described an interesting perspective on revenue generation of water fountains vs. bottled water. When the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article about the disappearing water fountains halfway through the NBA season, the Cavaliers first said they were following advice from the NBA, that water fountains spread swine flu (the NBA never gave such guidance). The Plain Dealer pointed out that the removal was illegal — public buildings are required by building codes to have water fountains, the number based on capacity. Fans were so angry — once the paper pointed out that the fountains were gone; strange they hadn’t noticed — that the Cavaliers set up temporary water stations around the arena, so those who wanted a drink didn’t have to stand in line.
The Q then scrambled to re-install the fountains. By then, the Cavaliers alone had hosted 29 sold-out home games at the Q — almost 600,000 thirsty fans. If just 10 percent of those fans bought a $4 bottle of water they otherwise wouldn’t have, that’s nearly $10,000 in additional concession revenue, just for water, at each game.

Elimination of Bottled Water:

  1.  Grand Canyon eliminated the sale of bottled water inside the park within 30 days. John Wessel, regional director for the park service stated, ” Our parks should set the standard for resource protection and sustainability, I feel confident that the impact to park concession and partners have been given fair considerations and that this plan can be implemented with minimal impacts to the visiting public.”
  2.  Colleges Ban Bottled Water: The Association for the advancement of Belmont University, Oberlin College, Seattle University, University Ottawa, University Portland, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Ports, Upstate Medical University, Washington University in St. Louis have banned the sale of bottled water on there campuses. Schools on a similar track who have banned plastic bottled water from dining halls include: Gonzaga University, New York University, Stanford University, Stony Brook University, and University of Maryland. Schools where the students are campaigning to ban bottled water include: Brown University, Cornell University, Evergreen State College, Pennsylvania State University, and Vancouver Island University
  3. In April of last year Concord, Ma. banned the sale of Bottled Water, Making international headlines. However when the ban was intended to go into effect in January of 2012 voters at the annual town meeting rejected the proposal and instead proposed to educate citizens about bottled water’s environmental impact.
  4. Well in 2010 a ban on bottled water at all events held on city property was considered but never turned into law. However San Francisco has already done away with bottled water at city meetings.
  5. 19 US cities, 14 states, and 12 countries make an impact to steer away from bottled water.

What is the end game?
More than 2.6 billion people, or more than 40% of the worlds population, lack basic sanitation, and more than one billion people lack reliable access to safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of all illnesses in the world is due to water-borne diseases, and that at any given time around half of the people in developing world are suffering from diseases associated with inadequate water sanitation (killing more than 5 million people annually).

If clean water could be provided to everyone on earth for an outlay of $1.7 Billion a year beyond current spending on water projects, according to the International Water Management Institute. Improving sanitation, which is just as important, would cost a further $9.3 billion per year. So I guess at the end of the day society needs to decide what we want for our future and legislation will assist in securing the well being of our resources.

Utilities Water Rates are Climbing!!!!

Happy Water Day!!!! A little insight into the water that everyone uses but no one understands its true value until now. Over the past year, I have been watching water rates rise due to the increase in demand impacted by the degradation of infrastructure and dwindling the supply. Currently, water utilities are suffering because not only is there good undervalued but their infrastructure cannot accurately measure the amount supplied or accurately transport the good without a loss. Therefore most water rate increases are directly associated with improving the dilapidated infrastructure.
Increase in Flat-Rates fees: Just to list a few
  • Las Vegas Valley Water District decides to add a surcharge to help cover debt payments over the nest three years. Part one will be a flat-rate increase that will mostly impact businesses.
  •  Tiffin, Oh. The Ohio American Water Company increase water rates by 22% to cover the cost of aging infrastructure. This was the first of utility to present the health and safety issues associated with the current infrastructure, but that did not calm residents. The public utility commission of Ohio held a public forum  to discuss the water rate increase.
  • Uxbridge, Ma. Introduced a new method to recover billing debt similar to Irvine Ranch utility in that “high-usage water consumers (800 cubic feet +) to see the slight rate increase.” The slight increase in rates was based purely on water consumption, last year the utility experienced a 5.4% decrease in last year’s billing cycle. If that were to occur in 2012, the water enterprise operating fund would lose $46,897. Even with the slight increase the fund has a chance of losing $21,569 (impacted by weather and infrastructure factors). Changes rate structure to generate larger revenue from larger users
  • Virgina looking to increase water rates by 15.9% in that will impact Prince Williams, Alexandria, Hopewell, and eastern district. However being regulated by the State Corporation Commission requires the company to file for the increase with the SCC regulatory agency. The SCC is also required to give the public notice of the rate increase and the opportunity to comment. Therefore, this is not a sure bet yet.
  • Elmwood Park, Il. Can expect a water increase for the next four years, starting with a 25% increase this year and 15% increase each of the following three years. The increase in rates is to pay off $425 million in repairs and replacement costs for 125 miles of water main, and another $260 million on upgrading four pumping stations.
  • Missouri American Water was granted rate increase, boosting rates 10% starting on April 1, 2012. The rates are increasing to assist with infrastructure cost.
Water Ban: 
  • Uxbridge, Ma. was also banned outdoor water use last summer to ensure sufficient water during hot and dry weather conditions.
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District has implemented strict water restrictions on outdoor water user including lawn irrigation, pressure washing, car washing, decorative fountains, and more. Unlike other outdoor water use restrictions, this restriction is implemented year round.
  • New Jersey American Water follows suit with banning outdoor water use last summer as the utility water resources began to dwindle in Essex and Union Counties, therefore, the entire community had to reevaluate usage. The severity of the conservation was the tremendous urging citizens to not only stop water outdoors but to conserve indoors as well.
  • Cobb County, Ga. Governor Perdue signed the Water Stewardship Act into law. The law has new provisions for landscape watering. You may water landscapes and day between the hours of 4pm – 10am. However, there is already an odd/even schedule currently in place for other outdoor uses such as car washing, fountains, etc.

Scarcity is Increasing Time to Check Out the Alternatives!

Recycled Water: employs the same principles as the hydrologic cycles but with vastly greater efficiency and results in a much more pure end product. There are multiple methods used to treat water so that it can be reused however each method has multiple phases. 
    • The first phases where the water is typically taken from the sewage or wastewater facility and solids are removed (naturally this occurs in rivers). 
    • Then the second phase is when microorganisms are added which eat smaller particles. Once the organisms consume material they will fall to the bottom leaving the cleaner water to rise to the surface. 
    • Phase three the water goes through a filtration process where the water percolates through layers of fine anthracite coal, sand and gravel (similar to underground seepage which occurs in aquifers). 
    • Phase four disinfectants and chlorine is added to kill germs. (Water is ready for industrial and commercial use)
  • Phase five microfiltratson process: the water is pressurized through pipes containing straw-like fibers with pores that are 5,000 times smaller than a pinhole
  • Phase six reverse osmosis:  water is pressurized at about 2000 pounds per square inch through tightly wound layers of membranes with pores that are 5 million times smaller than a pinhole. This eliminates virtually all impurities.
Examples of different efforts of water recycling:
  1. South Bay Water Recycling program, which distributes recycled wastewater to more than 400 customers in the San Jose area
  2. Irvine Ranch Water District’s ground-breaking dual water system, which supplies recycled water to commercial high rises for use in flushing toilets and urinals
  3. West Basin Municipal Water District that distributes recycled water to more than 210 customers
  4. Monterey County Water Recycling Projects, which provide recycled water for agricultural irrigation to help ease demands on an over-drafted groundwater aquifer
  5. Padre Dam Water Recycling Facility, which was expanded to recycle 2 million gallons/day for turf irrigation at parks, golf courses and other commercial and industrial facilities.
  6. In San Diego, 16 water agencies are collectively using over 32,300 acre-feet of recycled water annually to meet the region’s water supply demand
    • City of Carlsbad’s new recycled water treatment and distribution system that will deliver approximately 3,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water to customers located in that seaside community.
    • Otay Water District is constructing a distribution system to deliver an estimated 5,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water by 2030 purchased from the City of San Diego’s South Bay Water Recycling Plant.
  7. Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District came together to take highly treated wastewater previously discharged into the ocean and subjects it to further treatment, including microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection. The purified water is pumped to spreading ponds near the Santa Ana River for percolation into the groundwater basin, with some injected along the coast as a barrier to seawater intrusion.
    • The Replenish system produces 70 million gallons per day or up to 25.5 billion gallons of water per year (enough to meet the needs of 500,000 people)

Is desalination really California’s the first line of defense against water scarcity???

Desalination exists within California as a small production source, producing between .002 to 0.600million gallons per day. These plants are used for industrial processes. In 2002, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2717 (Directing the department of water resources to establish a desalination task force to make recommendations related to potential opportunities for the use of seawater and brackish water desalination. The desalination task force established that desalination could only contribute to less than 10% of California’s water supply needs. Nine years after Assembly Bill 2717 passed, private corporations and municipal water agencies have proposed new desalination plants. There currently are over twenty large-scale desalination plants proposed throughout California (ranging in capacity from .40 MGD to 80MGD). The technology that is projected within desalination plants is Reverse Osmosis; a little insight on the inefficiency of this technology is displayed in the cost breakdown below: 
Pros: 
  • Provides reliable drought-resistant water supply to California
  • Improve water quality  compared to existing sources
  • Lessen the demand on northern California’s water supply by developing a local alternative for Southern California. 
Cons:
  • Can add harmful chemicals and metals into the water it produces 
  • Intake waters could contain: Pharmaceuticals, algal toxins, and endocrine disruptors depending on water supply source
  • Desalination is extremely energy intensive, requiring 30% more energy than existing inter-basing supply system and the energy expense is 50% of the plants operating cost
  • Desalination also would indirectly cause more GHG emissions (greater dependence on fossil fuels) 
Desalination Project:
Desalination plants within California were indirectly withdrawn when coastal power plants once- through cooling methods ( seawater intakes and use the seawater for cooling from the power plant). In 2010, the California State Water Resource Control Board passed a policy to phase out the use of once-through cooling because of the impact on marine life. There were 20 desalination proposed to use open seawater intakes to withdraw water and ten of these will likely co-locate with existing power plants in order to share the intake pipes. Only 13 of those 20 projects are moving forward. 
Alternatives to Current and desalination water supply systems:
  1. Urban water conservation 
  2. Stormwater Capture/ reuse
  3. Water Recycling
  4. Groundwater Desalination requires less energy than seawater desalination because the water is less saline. 
  5. Greywater 

Virtual Water Conference: 60 Active Water Professionals in 60 minutes!!

Dow’s Future of Water: Is a new age educational tool to grasp the attention of not only active water professionals but upcoming students as well. However, this conference was hosted by Dow Chemical Representative to learn about the role the chemistry plays in the global water crisis? The facts listed below were some that were presented in the presentations.
  1.  According to Standard and Poor’s Credit Suisse Water Index, in 1950: fresh water reserves were 17000m3  per capita. In 1995: 7300m. In the period that the world population has doubled, demand for fresh water has quadrupled. 
  2. By 2025, the UN forecasts that demand for fresh water will grow by 29% and supply will grow by 22%.
  3. Water has been announced as being a global problem. However, most of the water problems have regional and local solutions. Because “Water in main is not the same as water in Spain.”
  4. There was a HUGE focus on water Stewardship and water education. The understanding of where your water comes from (water address). Starting to inform youth about everything that we were unaware of growing up begins to develop a platform of understanding that leads to action. 
  5. Water management seems to be extremely segregated into different management techniques and the level of efficiency in each subcategory: Wastewater, freshwater, storm water and rainwater. The fading of the difference in management will overall improve the water management efficiency. 
  6. “Half the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people with preventable water-related diseases.”
  7. Per day over 600 water mains break in the United States on average. 
  8. Current water infrastructure in the western region of the United States is roughly 80 years old (if not longer) and on average 20% of the water transported within this infrastructure is lost (through leaks, breaks, and seepage). The cost of replacing current infrastructure is estimated to be $335 Billion over the course of the next 20 years. While water is currently being priced at 1/3 of a penny, water prices are expected to tremendously increase. 
  9. Mention of Biochar was a new subject mostly for  sustainable agriculture and to allow for increase soil absorption to improve soil fertility.

Random Water Facts and Disputes

  1. Fire Departments Vs. Public Utilities: Numerous Utilities in North Carolina have had extensive water theft by local fire departments. When I initially heard of this argument, I thought it was a misprint, but it’s not…. Numerous fire departments have been illegally drawing water from hydrants to fill swimming pools and other non-firefighting related activities. Little do they know that North Carolina legislation states that fire departments and other water thefts can be charged $500.00 per misuse or five times the cost of water taken (which can be high). (Call with Warren Public Utility)
  2. According to the AWWA 08 rate study: National water and wastewater charges increased 12.3% and 15.1%, respectively, for a residential customer using 1,000 cubic feet (cf) of water a month between January 1, 2006 and July 1, 2008.  During the same period, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban customers increased 10.9%.
  3. Between 1996 and 2008, water and wastewater charges for residential customers using 1,000 ccf per month have increased 4.21% and 4.39% annually, respectively, which is greater than the annual CPI increase of 2.87% (AWWA Rate Study, 2008).
  4. Water and wastewater charges are highest in the Northeast while water and wastewater charges are lowest in the Midwest (AWWA Rate Study, 2008).
  5. Even with the charge increases, water and wastewater charges remain affordable as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency.(National Census Data).

How much water does it take to make consumer goods?

Joseph Bergen and Nicki Huang, two graduate school students from Harvard Graduate School of Design, created an online interactive map that shows people in different locations how much water consumer goods in their region use. With the help of Pacific Institute these two students went on to develop a map that allows you to click on different countries and different consumer products to compare and contrast the embodied water content, as well as the water usage and accessibility. Moving your mouse around on the map  you can compare one country profile with another country profile for products or overall water supply. Also, you can print labels for each product embodied water count and used it as a reminder of your water usage and accessibility. This project has developed into a new trend of developing a water footprint and some of the reasoning behind why are listed below
Mind-Blowing Stats on Embedded water:

  1. One cup of coffee has 1120 (x 50 gallons) of water per cup. = 56,000 gal
  2. A pair of leather shoes has 16,600 (x 50 gal’s) of water per pair= 830,000 gal
  3. A Microchip has 16,000 (x 50 gallon’s) of water per chip = 800,000 gal

This website is worth while checking out to give you a reality check on embodied water you unknowingly consume

Another interesting project within the same realm
Chris Hendrickson and Michael Blackhurst; two engineers from Carnegie Mellon University estimated water use among +400 industry sectors. Calculated all water inputs used for these interrelated industries to shed light on the total amount of water that goes into the manufacturing of consumer products. Their work was published in the Feb. 23, 2010 edition of the journal Environmental Science & TechnologyThe results were overwhelming because more water use occurs indirectly as a result of processing (packaging, shipping, etc). 
.In Terms of Gallons of Water needed to produce $1 worth of consumer goods:

  • Cotton 1,300
  • Fruit 480
  •  Flour milling 470
  • Electricity 450
  • Vegetables and melons 280
  •  Sugar 270
  • Chicken 250
  • Dog and cat food 200
  • Cattle 190
  • Tortillas 140
  • Milk 140
  • Paint 140
This study presents growing awareness of indirect water consumption in consumer products and that being said the United Nations estimates that one-quarter of the world’s population, mostly among the poorest countries, won’t have sanitary drinking water by 2025.

Ways to Get Involved in Water Projects…… Amazing Water Efforts

Living Water International is a non-profit organization that shows you your potential impact on the environment from consumption of coffee and bottled water. It introduces the current water issues in Sub-Saharan Africa (40 billion hours of labor wasted each year in carrying water long distances). Their description of water on a Global Scale drives home issues that plague billions in the picture from the there website below.

The Pursuit of Water is a project that is focusing on worldwide social issues about water, gathering together the globe and bringing change through creative, innovative media. Providing a brief introduction of water issues, The Pursuit of Water, is a great gateway to becoming involved in water projects by connecting multiple water efforts across the globe. 

Water.org is an extremely powerful non-profit organization that not only introduces new water issues, but they have extensive practical solutions to implement against these issues. For instance, you can choose to become involved or donate to their micro-finance loan system that aid people living in impoverished regions with the financial burden of improving their water source. They have extensive media coverage of their work because of the celebrity (Matt Damon) who has become a spokesperson for them. They have an extreme goal that aims to aid in providing everyone in the world with clean water. 

The One Drop goal is to fight poverty by providing access to water and raising awareness among people and communities about the need for mobilization to make safe water accessible to all, in sufficient quantity, today, and tomorrow. One Drops’ approach is a tripod approach based on three complementary components: Technical, micro-finance, and social arts/popular education. Currently, they have active projects in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador and India.

Amman Imman: Water is Life is similar to Water.org and One Drop, but this non-profit began in 2006 by Ariane Kirtley (Fulbright scholar researching in Azawak, Niger). The program started by drilling wells then a partnership developed providing maintenance to the wells, and now it has expanded into a network of schools, food production, and development.  Improving health, education, lifestyle, and efficiency among the people of Niger. Now Amman Imman is focusing on helping other water projects in Africa, the next being Azawak of West Africa (goal is to develop 50 or more cases of life across Azawak). 

Charity: Water now has 3,962 water focused projects, and they have raised more than 20 million. The projects are located in Bangladesh,Bolivia, Cambodia, Central African Republic,Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda. They Connect with other groups to execute these wells and to promote further development of these regions by providing videos of the contamination. For example here is the footage from Kenya (http://www.charitywater.org/projects/fromthefield/kenya.php). If your interested in seeing the conditions of these nations water then pick a country that interests you and see how what is not shows on Discovery. You can take the bull by the horns with this organization and sponsor a water project and see the phases of development.

Relating these projects back to UC Berkeley Campus, the UC Berkeley students have begun an initiative to end the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. They have been able to remove the bottled water from all vending machines on campus, and sustainable water bottles are sold as a replacement forcing students, and faculty to reuse their water containers.